JOHN HUGHES might as well collect the Manager of the Month award already.
But it’s the bigger prize he is more bothered about and, while his Hartlepool United side made it seven unbeaten games last night, they still sit six points from safety.
The gap was reduced by two points after they thumped Crewe 3-0 at Victoria Park, with a display full of passion and effort.
Results, however, went against them as Scunthorpe, Bury and Colchester all recorded unwelcome victories.
Hughes, however, remains unconcerned about what others do.
“Results went against us, but I’m not worried about that and I’ve told my players that. Look after ourselves, keep the run going and what will happen will happen.
“Keep winning and picking up points. Listen, what does it matter? We were down at Christmas – look at what the boys have done.
“Everyone of them has been remarkable, I can only thank them for their efforts. Who knows were we will be, but keep going like that we have a chance.’’
Pools were thumped 5-0 at Crewe in the Capital One Cup in August, a meek performance that set the tone for the opening months.
This display was a different story altogether as they tormented the opposition into submission.
It had tempo, confidence, belief and passion.
They were quicker to the ball all over the pitch, and could have scored more than the three they got.
Visiting goalkeeper Steve Phillips produced plenty of saves to keep the scoreline down – and whether he should have been on the pitch was a moot point.
After racing out of his area, Charlie Wyke touched the ball around the keeper to latch onto.
He instinctively blocked the ball with an arm. Referee Darren Drysdale amazed all by playing on.
Ten minutes later, he was beaten as Pools deservedly took the lead.
Jon Franks crossed deep to pick out Jack Baldwin and his intelligent nod-down at the far post was there for Wyke to turn in ahead of his marker from close range at the near post.
The tempo and aggression of Pools’ game was unsettling for the visitors, who were unable to cope as they thundered into tackles and pressed the visitors into squandering the possession they build their performances on.
And Pools duly made it two before the break. Franks scored at Scunthorpe on Saturday and did it again last night.
He broke forward into space and was picked out by partner in crime James Poole, squirmed through three challenges on the edge of the area and fired low past Phillips.
Throughout the second half, only Phillips prevented Pools from bettering Crewe’s August cup victory.
He saved from a Wyke flicked-header from a tasty Evan Horwood cross, kept out a thumping Horwood curler from an angle and had earlier denied Poole at the near post just seconds into the second period.
At the other end, Scott Flinders didn’t have a shot to save all night.
Pools completed their biggest win since last January when, after Phillips saved twice from Wyke, Andy Monkhouse, on as a first-half substitute for the injured Simon Walton, smashed in.
“There’s been a big turnaround – it’s promotion form and long may it continue,’’ added Hughes. “The performances are putting pride back into the town.
“The commitment was there again, you have to show a character and have a willingness to win - game in, game out.
“I’ve only come here to help the guys, all credit goes to them. There was many man of the match tonight, but the performance of big Sam Collins at the back and Ritchie Humphreys, two of our older players, was different class.
“Experience can go a long way.
“I’m delighted to get three goals, it’s great for the fans and they all go home happy.’’
Goals: Wyke (27, 1-0); Franks (39, 2-0); Monkhouse (90, 3-0)
Booking: Poole (45, foul)
Referee: Darren Drysdale (Lincoln) 4
HARTLEPOOL UNITED (4-3-2-1): Flinders 6; Austin 7, Collins 8, Hartley 7, Horwood 7; Humphreys 8, Walton 7 (Monkhouse 28, 7), BALDWIN 8; Poole 8 (Luscombe 82), Franks 8 (James 90), Wyke 8. Subs (not used): McHugh (gk), Rutherford, Holden, James, Howard
CREWE ALEXANDRA (4-1-3-2): PHILLIPS 7; Robertson 5, Ellis 6, Dugdale 5, Mellor 5; Osman 4; Murphy 6, Aneke 4 (Clayton 72), Inman 4 (Pogba 50, 4); Leitch-Smith 5 (Colclough 81), Moore 6. Subs (not used): Martin (gk), Tootle, Davis, Turton
MAN OF THE MATCH
JACK Baldwin – tough in the tackle, read the game well and plays with an authority beyond his years
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